Posted by: travelrat | October 27, 2010

St. Pietersberg Caves

Maastricht; 13th July 2010

Entrance to St. Pietersberg caves

One of the properties of limestone is that it hardens on exposure to air, meaning that, for building purposes, it’s better to win your stone from an underground mine than from an open air quarry. Stone got by this method is softer, and more easily cut, but will harden after use.

These limestone mines can be found over most of Limburg province; we visited the caves at Valkenberg many years ago, and were recently intrigued to obtain a DVD of André Rieu and his orchestra giving a concert for the Queen of the Netherlands in those caves.

Communal ovens, for use in emergency

However, I don’t think André has ever given a concert in the caves of Sint Pietersberg, a low hill outside Maastricht to which the boat took us. You’d think that artificially-hewn caves wouldn’t be very interesting. There are no stalactites or stalagmites, although we were told that one had been carved many years ago; it fell down shortly after it was finished. And, no doubt, its creators realised that to make a proper stalactite takes several millennia.

But, the mines were used as a place of refuge by the people of Maastricht during sieges or other troubled times, and there are one or two reminders of such usage. The most recent are water tanks and cooking stoves, dating from World War II, when they were used as an air raid shelter.

But, the main attraction is the cave art, to which several artists have made a contribution. I have a theory that the first drawings were made by miners, in order to identify their position in tunnels which were otherwise featureless, and easy to get lost in, And, of course, they make the Sint Pietersberg caves much more than just a hole in the ground.

One of the cave drawings; the Dutch Royal Family in 1948


Responses

  1. Hi Keith,
    I’ve never seen caves like these very intriguing, the drawings of the Royal Family like beautiful, someone went to a lot of trouble with these it seems. The communal oven is unreal, it looks so unusual. I can see how these caves would be the ideal place to hide from ones enemy’s.

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